Grassroots gridiron

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

The Argos are holding a special practice tomorrow to show support for local football in the area, something you'll see a lot more of now that all levels of football are pulling in the same direction to grow the sport.

Ontario finally has one governing body, ontariotacklefootball.com, overseeing grassroots football, after years of squabbling and politics among various governing bodies.

"You're going to see a lot of things like this going forward in conjunction with the CFL, NFL Canada, high schools, Canadian universities," said Mike Adam, commissioner of the Ontario Varsity Football league. "Now that everyone is on the same page, it will only be good things. There's a lot of discussion with the universities, NFL Canada, and the CFL."

Around 14,000 kids play minor football in Ontario. Adam says the OVFL has started up an allstar peewee football league as well this year, to help kids gradually get introduced to the sport.

The Argos will be practising at the Oshawa Civic Stadium to raise money for the Oshawa Hawkeyes Football Club, which has teams in the OVFL, Ontario's elite football league. The practice gets going at 2 p.m.

Action in the OVFL gets going full-time this weekend. The big game is today, 2 p.m., at Lamoreaux Park, with the Toronto Thunder taking on the Metro Toronto Wildcats, a perennial OVFL powerhouse.

CANADA VS. ITALY

With a berth in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in their sights, the women's national soccer team will take on Italy's women's national team in an international friendly June 25 at Centennial Stadium in Toronto, at 6 p.m.

Even Pellerud, Canada's head coach, says the match is another opportunity to test his side against quality opposition, tuning up for World Cup qualifying this November.

"When I coached Norway, I always looked forward to intense, tough games against Italy," Pellerud told the Canadian Soccer Association website.

Tickets for the match are on sale, ranging in price from $15 to $25. Universal Youth Foundation, a charity group committed to providing educational assistance to youth in developing countries, is helping organize the event, along with Azzurri Soccer Club in Toronto.

"We should be addressing all levels of soccer, from house league to promoting the best soccer possible," said Robert Iarusci, chairman of Azzurri. "We think youth should aspire."

GTHL

The Greater Toronto Hockey League's annual general meeting will be held June 10. Part of the festivities include elections. John Gardner has been acclaimed as president. Same with Dave Deyman as treasurer. Alf Johnston has been acclaimed as first vice president after Frank Pindar stepped down. But there's races going on for some of the other posts.

The official list of candidates doesn't come out until June 1, but we've learned Gwen Magee and Ross Magnus are running for the second vice president post, and Steve Kupresak is up against Doug Grundy for the third vice president job.

New candidates for board of directors include Garry Earle and Jim Sturino.

One source says there's a desire among many in the GTHL to see more "hockey" people at the board and executive levels, a desire to see less influence by lawyers.

SHELDON IN TOWN

Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy was in town this past week, talking about his book, Why I Didn't Say Anything, detailing his abuse as a youngster at the hands of hockey coach Graham James, his decision to go public about it later as an adult, a decision that led to James' conviction, and the battle with his own personal demons that came out of the experience.

Kennedy says while the book was in part therapeutic, he's now anxious to put that period of his life behind him, and looks forward to getting back into hockey, at the grassroots level, working with his 10-year-old daughter Ryan, who starts girls hockey in Alberta this fall.

"The book has been good," he said. "The big fear for me was getting back out, talking about it, and how I was going to handle that." Kennedy is taking addiction counselling courses via distance learning from McMaster University, and is working on an educational hockey website designed to simplify the process for people who want to get into coaching youth hockey as volunteers.

GOLF'S GROWTH

With the Canadian Professional Golfers' Association announcing they're folding their annual championship because they couldn't get a title sponsor, and with the RCGA's long search for a corporate backer for their LPGA event, and Bell dropping out as the title sponsor for the men's PGA event, it makes you wonder why junior golf has had such success luring corporate backers.

Earl Fritz, executive director and founder of the Canadian Junior Golf Association, has some theories in that area. The CJGA has been consistently shipping out missives in recent months announcing corporate deals. The CJGA currently has 21 companies and organizations supporting them, including HSBC Bank Canada, Nike Golf Canada, and Mazda Canada.

"An important thing for them is green grass, growing the game, helping out youth who can't afford to play golf," he said, adding companies want to get youth to know who they are, building future customers along the way.


Videos

Photos